The State Department and the CIA seem to have grabbed the wheel at the New York Times, with successive front-page stories last week on Wednesday and Thursday, first smearing Iraqi Governing Council member and longtime U.S. ally Ahmed Chalabi, then his allies in the administration.
Perhaps it sacrificed its journalistic integrity in exchange for the first pass at leaks from State and CIA, or perhaps the paper and the paper-pushers united because of a common goal: the defeat of George W. Bush this November.
To appreciate how surreal the Times? stories were last week, consider the underlying facts. Chalabi is accused of telling Iran that the U.S. had broken its secret code. Then there?s the kicker.
Upon being told that his country?s code had been compromised, an Iranian intelligence agent turned around and sent a message back to the mullahs that the U.S. had cracked the code?by using the cracked code.
Never mind that the message could have been delivered by hand following a 2-hour drive.
Knowing that your code has been cracked is about the best gift that can be given. The potential for misinformation is enormous. Any Iranian intelligence agent would have had common sense enough not to slaughter the golden goose before it had been given the chance to lay any eggs.
That ?intelligence officials? (who can be found at both CIA and State) felt strongly enough to go the Times means one of two things: 1) they didn?t believe that Chalabi had actually done anything, but exploited it anyway to achieve a long-sought goal (squashing Chalabi), or 2) they are pitifully, disturbingly gullible.
More offensive, though, was that the Times bit.
The previous week, the paper had run a series of stories, first an attack on Chalabi with vague accusations of passing intelligence to Iran, and then an attack on Chalabi?s strongest supporters, the hawks in the administration, specifically at the Pentagon. The pattern was repeated one week later.
The paper even went so far as to do its best to explain away the transparently goofy scenario. In the article, Iran?s transmission of Chalabi?s supposed leak was rationalized as the agent ?possibly not believing Mr. Chalabi's account? after a single test message was not seized upon. But common sense dictates that far more than one test would have been sent before revealing to the U.S. that Iran knew its code had been broken.
Joel Mowbray, who got his start with Townhall.com, is an award-winning investigative journalist, nationally-syndicated columnist and author of Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America's Security.
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